As consumers look to reduce the amount of added sugars and total calories in their diet, low- and no- calorie sweeteners (LNCS) such as stevia may be considered to help achieve this goal. In doing so, some consumers may be concerned that they are consuming too much of one or a combination of LNCS.
The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) ensures sweetener consumption is safe
The Acceptable Daily Intake, or ADI, is the amount of an ingredient (or in this case, stevia) in a food or beverage that can be ingested every day, on average, over the course of a lifetime without posing a health risk. ADI levels are presented as milligrams (mg) by kilogram (kg) of body weight and is inclusive of adults, as well as vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly and pregnant women.
The ADI is set by experts using extreme caution
- The ADI is set by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) 1-4 and often confirmed or update by other regulatory authorities such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- The ADI is set by reviewing toxicological data in animals and humans if available.
- In order to make certain that the ADI will not cause harm, the lowest relevant No Observed Adverse Effect Level (NOAEL) in the most sensitive species is identified.
- In order to be even more conservative, experts apply an uncertainty factor to account for the inherent uncertainties in extrapolating toxicity data from experimental animal studies to potential effects in humans. This safety factor is achieved by dividing the identified NOAEL identified by 100. This helps to account for variations not only between animals and humans but for variations between humans as well. This factor is applied to the NOAEL in order to ensure the ADI is safe.
Am I likely to consume too much stevia?
No. Within balanced dietary patterns, overconsumption of stevia is unlikely. Consumers should feel confident that stevia in the food supply are safe and consider it a tool in the reduction of calories and added sugar while satisfying their sweet tooth.
LNCS are safe for children
No major scientific or regulatory agency prohibits the use of stevia in foods for children. JECFA reviewed the safety of LNCS intake at the approved acceptable daily intake (ADI) levels for adults and children 5, which, as noted above, far exceeds the amount an average person would consume daily.
LNCS are safe for pregnant women
Safety assessments include an evaluation of possible effects of low-calorie sweeteners during pregnancy and have continued to show that sweeteners such as stevia are safe for pregnant women and their children. The safety of sweetener use during pregnancy has been confirmed safe and their appropriate use supported by various regulatory agencies and health authorities.6-8
More information about LNCS and pregnancy can be found here.
Is consuming above the ADI in a single day a concern?
Given the safety factor applied when determining ADI values, the consumption of any ingredient, including stevia, above the ADI is not a concern. Because ADI references an amount that can be safely consumed every day over the course of an entire lifetime, negative health outcomes would be expected only when an individual exceeds this level every day or greatly above the ADI in a single day.
How does ADI translate into common foods and beverages?
In short, because intakes of beverages, such as diet sodas, contain such a small amount of sweeteners such as stevia, which contributes to their low-calorie content, approaching the ADI every day for a lifetime would be very unlikely and difficult to do.
For example: The ADI for sucralose is 15 milligrams per kilogram of body weight (mg/kg) per day. This would be 340 milligrams of sucralose, (or more than 28 packets of Splenda® Original Sweetener or nine cans of diet soda) per day for a 150 pound person. This is 100 times less than what has been tested and considered to be safe. This example illustrates that ADI values are quite conservative.
What about consuming too much of a combination of sweeteners?
The ADI is not cumulative number that applies to different ingredients. For example, the consumption of a food or beverage containing stevia is counted separately from a food or beverage containing other LNCS. If you are concerned about consuming too much of one sweetener, try including a variety of sweeteners.
1. World Health Organization. Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) Guidance Document for WHO Monographers and Reviewers Evaluating Food Additives. Geneva, Switzerland; 2019. doi:10.1201/9781315372914
2. JECFA. 37th JECFA Report, WHO Food Additives Series, No. 28, Toxicological Evaluation of Certain Food Additives and Contaminants: Trichlorogalactosucrose. WHO Food Addit Ser. 1991;(28):219–228. https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/40288/WHO_TRS_806.pdf;jsessionid=E77231B5951408B972EBA020A1236BB8?sequence=1.
3. World Health Organization. 41st report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. 1993:64.
4. World Health Organization. 82nd report of the FAO/WHO Expoert Committee on Food Additives. World Health Organ Tech Rep Ser. 2017;(1000):1-162. doi:10.1016/j.ijfoodmicro.2005.01.003
5. World Health Organization. 21st Report of the Joint FAO/WHO Expoert Committee on Food Additives. 1978.
6. Taking Care of You and Your Baby While You’re Pregnant. https://familydoctor.org/taking-care-of-you-and-your-baby-while-youre-pregnant/. Accessed August 18, 2020.
7. Artificial Sweeteners and Pregnancy :: American Pregnancy Association. https://americanpregnancy.org/is-it-safe/artificial-sweeteners-and-pregnancy-1082. Accessed August 18, 2020.
8. Health Canada Website. The Safety of Sugar Substitutes . https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/healthy-living/your-health/food-nutrition/safety-sugar-substitutes.html. Published April 30, 2008. Accessed May 7, 2020.